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The University of Southampton

Carrying on the tradition of honouring prestigious female crystallographers

Published: 8 February 2024
Elspeth Garman

The UK National Crystallography Centre (NCS) at Southampton has a tradition of naming pieces of equipment after prestigious female crystallographers in honour of their excellence.

Existing instruments at the NCS have been named after Ada Yonath , Rosalind Franklin , Dorothy Hodgkin and K athleen Lonsdale .

The newly-launched UK National Electron Diffraction Facility (NEDF) , part of the NCS, carried on the tradition by naming its latest equipment ‘Els’ after Elspeth Garman who is best known for her work on radiation damage in single crystal X-ray diffraction.

Elspeth’s research has focused on protein crystallography and the impact of radiation damage on crystals at ambient and cryogenic temperatures. She has co-authored more than 150 Protein Data Bank entries and has been instrumental in the development of cryogenic handling techniques for macromolecular crystals.

She worked on establishing the radiation dose limit for cryocooled proteins, which came to be called the ‘Garman limit’.

This is not the first time Elspeth has been linked with the NCS in Southampton. She previously worked with Director Professor Simon Coles and the NCS to demonstrate the existence and extent of radiation damage in small molecule crystallography.

Elspeth’s namesake equipment - ‘Els’ - is a XtaLAB Synergy-ED fully integrated electron diffractometer and is enabling a quantum leap in the UK’s ability to study crystals a whole magnitude smaller than current X-ray instruments.

Elspeth, who attended the launch of the new facility, said: “I am truly honoured and humbled to have this piece of equipment named after me and to join such a prestigious group of female scientists.

“The science that this equipment and the people using it will be able to carry out is truly exciting. They will be able to examine very small nano crystals that have previously been impossible to analyse.”

The NEDF is a joint centre drawing together expertise from two world class universities – Southampton and Warwick – to use electrons, instead of conventional X-ray crystallography to investigate and determine the structure of much smaller crystals than previously possible.

The NEDF will enable the design of new and improved materials in several economically important areas, including batteries, catalysts, energy storage materials, solar cells and pharmaceuticals.

Simon, Southampton NEDF Lead, said: “We are already welcoming academia and industry through the doors to exploit this fantastic bespoke equipment that has been produced by our partners @RigakuOxfordXRD and @JEOLEUROPE .

“At the NCS, we have a long history of pushing the boundaries of X-ray crystallography. Electron diffraction opens up a whole new world where we can study nanocrystal structures that are 1,000 times smaller and get the same detailed information, which will allow us and our academic and industry partners to enter into the unknown.”

The equipment provides a seamless workflow from sample preparation, through data collection to structure determination of three-dimensional molecular structures from single nano crystals.

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